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Child Sexual Abuse: Let's Start the Conversation

Mallory Hagan

Well, April (Child Abuse Prevention Month) just turned in to May, but I would be remiss to let the month fly by without addressing an issue that haunts our nation and globe in a way that is truly alarming. I began writing this blog nearly three weeks ago, and put it down because the words I found myself writing were saddening to me. However, I just realized that means this blog is of upmost importance to share. Child Sexual Abuse is a problem, folks, and if we don’t begin to address it head-on, the 25% of college students that enter their Freshmen year of school on medication due to depression and anxiety will only continue to increase by leaps and bounds.

1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old.

That’s about 1 in 10 children. The sad part? Nearly 90% of Child Sexual Abuse cases go unreported; meaning this statistic is actually much higher. Want to know the craziest part? 90% of children who are abused know their abuser. So, yes, let’s keep talking about transgender people in the restroom. *rolls eyes*

Do you know 10 children? I’m sure you do. Think about their faces— their eyes peering up at you. Now, think about what it would feel like to learn that someone has taken advantage of the children you know because they were smaller and less powerful; their innocence forever stolen. I can’t imagine learning that my cousins, Camden and Cayson, experienced the abuse that has riddled our family for decades. Those two sweet faces would devastate me if I learned that they had been victimized, and yet, it is still a very, very real possibility.

Sexual abuse has blanketed my family for generations, and the subject is one that is never easy to talk about, but it must be discussed. The taboo nature of talking to children about their body parts, and the subject of sexual conduct, is all too common. The harsh reality about child abuse is that it has no boundaries. No socioeconomic status, race, religion, creed, or geographic location keeps our children safe. What’s the only thing that can keep our children safe? Us. Adults.                                                                                                                              

Child Sexual Abuse has a myriad of negative impacts on our society. Children who experience abuse or trauma carry it with them for years in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, anger, self-harm, eating disorders, teen pregnancy and worst of all, suicide attempts. In addition, children who have experienced sexual trauma are 3 times more likely to have a substance abuse problem specifically centered around alcohol. Aside from negatively affecting the human being that deals with their trauma daily, these mental health issues effect society, the healthcare system, our workforce, and, sometimes, a person’s ability to contribute positively to the community. In fact, the CDC estimated that the lifetime burden of child sexual abuse costs nearly $210,000 per victim from immediate care to potential productivity loss in adulthood.

Just this last month, I had the opportunity to join the Baltimore Children’s Center to lobby their state Senate on behalf of Erin’s Law. Believe it or not, people are truly against adding Child Sexual Abuse education in to school curriculums, but as stated above, what if the abuser is in your home? What if you sleep next to them every night? Learning of Child Sexual Abuse in school gives children yet another opportunity to hear the message that their body is theirs, and that they have a safe place to turn should they feel they are experiencing trauma at home. My Mother once said, “If I had been taught in school that what was happening to me was very wrong, I would have known that I had an outside source to talk to and confide in. That outside source could have saved me many years of enduring things that shouldn’t happen to a little girl…it wasn’t until my twenties that I was able to recognize that it wasn’t something I brought upon myself.”

No child should ever feel that someone taking advantage of them is something they brought upon themselves. We can do something about this. You can do something about this. Its all about having the conversation in your home. I guarantee that the level of discomfort you feel by describing the difference between safe/unsafe touch, and establishing a safe place to turn should something happen, is far less scary than the words, “Mom, _____ touched me.” Don’t you think? Prevention is possible. I know it is. We just have to start the conversation. We owe it to our children, and the future of this country, to keep them safe.

If you need help having this conversation with your kids, feel free to reach out to me. There are also several resources out there. Here are some great books to get you started:

Some Parts are Not for Sharing

My Body Belongs to Me

Its MY Body

Is your child too old for those? Have you experienced sexual abuse?

These sites offer guidance, too:

Child Abuse Prevention Program

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stop it Now

Darkness2Light

 

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Erin’s Law